Reverend Billy, otherwise known as Bill Talen, sports poorly dyed blond hair blown and sprayed back in a mighty bowl. In his cheap white suit and a clergy collar, he invites consumers to a booth where they can “confess your shopping sins” and be absolved. He is the pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping, and his Shopocalypse tour has been captured on film in What Would Jesus Buy? directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Morgan Spurlock (creator of Super Size Me).
Elevation, a U2 tribute band, played so loudly that the tunes were unintelligible. Lead singer Danno, named after U2’s Bono, wore shades and donned the leather jacket with the American-flag liner that Bono wore for U2’s Super Bowl performance. Watching him bounce around in a gothic sanctuary was painful.But then Elevation lit into the guitar riff that opens U2’s song of religious longing, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For." Something in me changed, and I started to groove.
Andalusia, the vibrant, southernmost region of Spain, is famous for its party culture, bullfighting and oceans of sunshine. The cathedral spire in the largest city, Seville, which towers over the old quarter, guides pedestrians to the third-largest church in Christendom.
In Mississippi these days, you may hear a candidate insist that “our children should be able to learn and pray in the best schools in the land." You might be surprised to hear the candidate refer to “the day I accepted Christ.” But you might be more surprised—especially if you hail from another part of the country—to learn that the candidate is a Democrat, John Arthur Eaves. At times Eaves seems to be trying to unseat GOP governor Haley Barbour by out-Jesusing him.
Pastor Maria Edmonds is doing gang ministry in the mountains of North Carolina. As she puts it, "They’re not accepted anywhere else. So I figure Jesus would have me spend time with them.”Millions of dollars are spent each year at the federal level to combat gang activity and reduce gang-related violence in our big cities. And, as Edmonds has discovered, gangs are also a feature of life in many small towns.
The Sunday after Pope Benedict XVI authorized the wider use of Latin in the Catholic mass, I went to St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, which has been celebrating mass in Latin for years. In fact, Catholic priests could always use the Latin version of the 1970 Vatican II–inspired liturgy (which at St. John Cantius is called the missa normativa).
Heather from Oregon sounds like a born-again woman, financially speaking. “I finally got everything paid. . . . No more credit cards, no more student loan!“ She thanks radio personality and anticredit crusader Dave Ramsey for freeing her from her bondage to consumer debt.She's not the only Ramsey fan. The tough-talking, quick-witted evangelical radio personality from Nashville has an audience of millions that includes both religious and secular listeners.
Surgeon general appointees are often controversial, usually for reasons having to do with sex. Conservatives fumed when C. Everett Koop praised the virtues of the condom and when Jocelyn Elders extolled the virtues of masturbation.
A friend of mine has an idea for teaching youth about sex: have them view one of those graphic birthing videos that the hospital has for first-time parents, the kind that shows the crowning and the afterbirth, the agony and the joy. The kids will get the idea.
One of the bright points in Barack Obama’s rising political star is his ability to talk about Jesus without faking it. But his enemies, including right-wing bloggers and TV pundits, are complaining that Obama’s church—Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago—embraces an Africentrism that is separatist or even racist. Just what is this Africentrism?
After focusing early in his life on topics in analytic philosophy and religion, David Burrell, C.S.C., turned to studying comparative issues in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He is the author of Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (University of Notre Dame Press, 1986) and Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions (Notre Dame, 1993).
There is much to celebrate in this important new book by one of the finest moral theologians writing today. Gilbert Meilaender of Valparaiso University gives us a fine example of “thinking with Augustine” about such crucial topics as desire, duty, sex and grief.
During John Paul II’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000, the frail pontiff visited the Western Wall, the remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple. With quivering hands he placed in a crevice of the wall a piece of paper on which he had written a prayer.
To reimagine Christian ethics, Samuel Wells draws on the liturgy as his chief resource. That he does so in accessible prose without pausing to wrangle with other ethicists is welcome enough—all pastors and many laypeople could read this book profitably.
On a recent trip to Jordan, no one directing my tour group objected to my meeting with Christian evangelicals. But the evangelicals were nervous. They are carefully conforming to the role that Jordan has given them: providing social services and avoiding activities that could invite government suspicion—like preaching or distributing Bibles. Publicly they state, “We’re not here to change anyone’s religion, we’re here to help people.”“Still,” one of them added later, “If I get five minutes with someone I’m going to share the gospel.” There are few stories of Jordanian Muslims converting to Christianity. Evangelical missionaries explain that it takes time, but they also seem frustrated that the Jordanian government hasn’t recognized their efforts to moderate their language and behavior.
Pity the poor book. Its obituary has been written many times as prognosticators glance over the horizon and predict that the Internet and downloadable literature and e-books will soon replace pages-between-covers.
There is something charmingly quaint about Sam Harris’s new book, Letter to a Christian Nation. If not for religious belief, he says, this country would be pouring resources into such worthy efforts to alleviate suffering as stem cell research, not indulging in hand-wringing over preposterous moral qualms about the destruction of embryos.
What is missing from the camp portrayed in Jesus Camp, or at least from the film account of it, is the fun. In my church camp days, I enticed non-Christian friends to go to my camp by telling them how much fun it would be. My counselors taught me how to canoe, how to fake fart, how to belay up a rope and how to flirt with girls. The counselors were college kids who were “on fire for Jesus,” but they loved me for myself—not as a future foot soldier in the jihad for America. That’s why I accepted their faith. If it was faith in Jesus that made them love me and others and allowed—no, encouraged—an unbridled pursuit of fun, I wanted in and I wanted to tell others about it. I still do.